This afternoon (March 20) Councilman Mike Bonin sent the following email to constituents in Council District 11:
“As part of a continuing effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered the use of 42 city facilities to temporarily house people experiencing homelessness. Five of those facilities are on the Westside.
“The temporary shelter at the Westwood Recreation Center will open as soon as later today. In the coming days, shelters are expected to open at the Westchester Recreation Center, the Pacific Palisades Recreation Center, the Oakwood Recreation Center, and the Cheviot Hills Recreation Center. All of these sites are designated emergency centers used in the case of natural disasters, such as fires and earthquakes. Additionally, the emergency winter shelter at the West LA Armory will remain open until at least April 20.”
Unfortunately, the Recreation Center is ill-prepared for an emergency like this. The two public toilets in the small gym are not handicapped accessible; they were supposed to be upgraded, perhaps with Quimby Funds, but that never happened.
Also, the park’s aging sewer system, which has not been upgraded, resulted in two sewage spills in the gymnasium last summer.
Another challenge is that there is no hospital in Pacific Palisades. If a homeless person requires medical attention, paramedics from Fire Station 69 will be required to do the transport to the UCLA Medical Center. (Fortunately, we no longer have late-afternoon, rush-hour traffic to worry about.)
Councilman Bonin and other Los Angeles politicians and government officials should have worked more effectively to get far more homeless people off the streets and into shelters years ago, instead of letting this problem fester to the point that the City has no plans about what to do if there is an outbreak of coronavirus among the homeless.
CTN contacted Palisades Rec Center Director Erich Haas this afternoon to ask when he was notified the Center would become a homeless shelter.
“I did not know we were even being considered, however I knew it could possibly happen as we are designated as a disaster shelter,” he wrote on March 20.
He explained that RAP (Rec and Parks) full-time staff would work shifts around the clock to staff the Center. “I am not sure if it would be Department run or Red Cross run,” Haas said, adding that this decision would have to come from the RAP Emergency Operation Division.
“We have not been activated yet,” he said.
LETTER: One resident wrote Circling the News today:
“I understand the need to get homeless people off the street and into a controlled environment during this crisis. It’s for everyone’s health, no matter what the living situation.
“As we know, our recreation centers will be used for this, including here in Pacific Palisades. Homeless will be driven to these centers by the L.A. Department of Transportation. I assume that means the bus.
“We know there are many reasons for homelessness including poverty, substance abuse, mental illness and even obstinance. I have hope the City will keep some of these various groups separate from each other.
“If there’s real control, drugs and alcohol will not be available. Perhaps there will be six-feet-apart AA meetings and counseling in these centers during this time.
“I assume the mentally ill will be treated as appropriate.
“I can’t imagine that individuals and families who are homeless solely because of poverty would be under the same roof as those with mental illness and/or drug and alcohol problems. Maybe they will be in the motels that are being talked about.
What happens when this crisis wanes? Will the homeless be bused back to where they were picked up? Or will they just walk outside the doors of the Palisades Rec Center — or any of the recreation centers — and find a cozy spot nearby to resettle.
I hope that after being in this controlled situation, many of them will decide to change their lives.
“Don’t think I’m hard-hearted, because I’m not.
I know the City is stretched thin because of this crisis. I just hope City leaders have thought this whole thing through.
“It’s taken a lot of work to get many of the homeless off the streets and hillsides of the Palisades into a situation where they are helped. That challenge could start all over.
“Meantime, may everyone stay healthy.
“And thank you for Circling the News.”
A Concerned Palisadian